I propose to take Questions Nos. 264, 266 and 267 together.
As the Deputy will know, it has become clear that there will soon be a significant reduction in the number of Irish officials in senior roles in the EU Institutions, as many high-ranking Irish officials will soon retire. At the current rates of recruitment of Irish permanent staff, we are far below the replacement rate. This poses a serious challenge. It is clear that more needs to be done in this area. That is why the Programme for Government commits to the development of a new strategy to increase the number of Irish people in the EU Institutions.
Last October, the Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne T.D., launched a public consultation on Ireland’s EU jobs strategy. In total, the consultation received 124 responses. I am grateful for the high level of public engagement with the consultation, and the thoughtful suggestions received. Submissions to the consultation identified factors contributing to the low number of Irish people entering the institutions, and suggested steps the new strategy could take to address the issues identified.
Following this consultation, officials in my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are working together to develop Ireland’s overall policy approach to EU staffing.
The strategy will include proposals aimed at increasing the number of Irish people securing positions within the EU Institutions. While work on the strategy is ongoing, I hope it will be published in the coming months.
The new strategy will build upon existing work carried out by my Department in promoting careers in the EU through the EU Jobs campaign. The campaign publicises EU career opportunities, including traineeships, in Ireland’s third-level institutions. The campaign also provides support to Irish citizens who have applied for permanent jobs in the EU Institutions, providing information and advice for the duration of the recruitment competition. Those interested can go to www.dfa.ie/eujobs for more information.
It will also include a commitment to increase the number of Irish civil servants seconded annually to the EU Institutions. The Centrally Funded Scheme (CFS) for Seconded National Experts was established in 2014 to support the secondment of Irish Government officials to the EU. The scheme, which provides for secondments to international as well as EU institutions, had a budget of €1.8 million for 2020. In 2020, it financed the secondment of twenty-six Irish officials to the EU Institutions. The CFS budget for 2021 has been increased to €2 million. This means that Ireland will have the capacity to second more officials to the Institutions than in any year since the scheme was established in 2013.
In addition to this scheme, the National Expert in Professional Training programme is also open to Irish civil servants, giving Irish officials the opportunity to have a short-term placement in the EU’s Institutions.
From time to time, positions within the European External Action Service (EEAS) open to Irish officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs. These placements usually take the form of secondments or temporary assignments from the Department to the EEAS. A total of 9 Irish diplomats currently work for the EEAS, either at its Headquarters in Brussels or in one of the 140 EU Delegations located around the world.
In addition, Irish citizens also take part in the Junior Professionals in Delegation Programme run by the EEAS and the European Commission, and places highly-qualified junior professionals from Member States in EU Delegations around the world. The application period for this programme is open now and will close on 31 January. The EU has made two places available to Irish candidates under this year’s programme. My Department also intends to finance an additional two places for Irish candidates this year. Those interested in applying for the programme should consult the EEAS and DFA websites for more information.